My husband and I were talking about zoos a while back. When he was young, whenever they went on holiday, his father always took the family to visit the nearest zoo. Whether it was Germany or France or England, it was just one of those things they ‘did’.
Me? Not so much. I’ve visited 4 zoos in my life; Edinburgh, London, Toronto and Calgary. What do I remember most about the first two? Remember, this was a loooong time ago and things have changed greatly in the past few (ahem!) decades, but boy did they smell. And even back then, my young self hated seeing the animals pacing back and forth, trapped in their barred cages.
Because of those memories, I think I only took my own kids to the zoo once or twice when they were growing up. Oh, I’ve been plenty of times since then in the winter to visit Zoolights, but never to go and see the animals.
So when it was suggested I go to the zoo with my (now all grown-up) kids and granddaughter a few weeks ago, my expectations weren’t too high. Particularly because the Calgary Zoo, situated on an island in the middle of the Bow River, was badly damaged by the flood that hit Calgary in June last year.
My first impression on this visit? Extremely favourable. It didn’t smell at all!! Probably because the animals are no longer housed in cages but in large indoor/outdoor enclosures where they can move around and socialize. The zoo is divided into different areas, some of which include: Destination Africa, Eurasia, Canadian Wild and the Penguin Plunge. Each area has a concession area and play park, so if your child gets a bit antsy, you can sit and enjoy a cup of coffee while they burn off excess energy on the equipment.
How did my granddaughter enjoy it? She’s not quite three yet, so she was a bit intimidated by the larger animals. What really fascinated her were the birds, especially the flamingoes. She sat and stared at them for ages, completely enthralled.
How did her grandmother enjoy it? I think watching her is what started changing my mind about the concept of zoos. Until now I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable that we cage animals, even in generous enclosures, for our entertainment. Why not leave them in the wild and just watch them on TV?
But maybe it’s only when you get up close to an animal, watch how it behaves, look into its eyes and witness its unique beauty, intelligence, heart and soul, that you can really appreciate it. Really understand how precious animals are to our world and how we must treasure and protect them in the wild.
So if you have kids (or even if you haven’t) and are visiting Calgary, why not add a visit to the zoo to your itinerary.
Calgary Zoo, you’re doing a great job. My granddaughter and I will be back.